Saturday, January 14, 2012

The History of Triple-D from My Perspective

The eve of Triple-D is upon us, and once again I have decided to partake in this madness.  A metric century on snow in January is no easy task, and with 3 previous attempts, I have only completed the race once, indeed until last year, only a handful of people had.  I thought now would be a good time to review my experiences with this race before treading these hazardous waters once again:

2008: In the inaugural year of this race we were faced with over a foot of snow on the ground and a fresh 4 inches just before the race.  There were  bitter cold temperatures the temperature at the start of the race was 2 F, and it only went down from there.  Winds in our face going outbound was 20mph.  Still I managed to overheat and took a bunch of clothes off which allowed my camelbak hose to freeze.  it took over an hour for the hose to defrost once I got it under some clothes again.  Between the dehydration and the cold I and some other riders decided to turn back early where the route when down from the highlands to the Heritage Trail.  I made it a few miles back towards the start/finish as the temperature dropped below -4 and the thermometer on my cyclocomputer stopped working. After stopping at the nice warm bar which was the last check point, I decided to call it a day.  Exhausted, cold, soaked with sweat, the Triple-D had defeated me.  Only 7 of the 30 starters had finished.  Read my full race report if you wish, here.

Tackling the Triple-D course in 2008.

2009: I decided to skip the race in favor of going to the bike swap.  I stand behind this decision.  After a heavy snow fell right before the race, the course became impassable and NO ONE finished the race.

2010: Another bitter cold year. Lance Andre the race director decided to shorten the course, and make it a lot easier in the hopes that some people might finish.  At first things looked very good for me.  The entire race was on the Heritage Trail, which was essentially flat, and the snowmobiles had worked it into a hardpacked surface.  I was cruising along using my bar-ends as aero bars and after a few miles I was in the top 5.  Then a big snow grooming machine came along, and what was a hard, fast surface become a loose fluffy mess.  Immediately, it took all my skill and power just to continue going forward.  I did manage to pass a few guys on 29ers where were just wallowing all over the trail on their "skinny" tires.  I ran out of water and had to go off-course to get some water at a farm house.  I made it to the half way point and turned around, and since the course was nominally downhill in this direction and the snow was 'settling', I felt like I might make it.  Then the grooming machine came by AGAIN loosening up the trail again and ruining all hope.  I managed to make it several more miles but it was getting cold, an hour or two after sundown the temps had dropped to -6 F, and my lips were going numb (I had forgotten to pack a face mask and a balaclava was not cutting it!)  In the little town of Graf called Carol for an evac and she came to rescue me.  8 of the ~35 starters finished that year.  They must have all been on fat bikes, my proto-fatbike wasn't much good, I can't image standard MTB's being ridable at all on that surface.  My finishing distance was good enough for 14th place, I think.

2011: I had managed to get some decent miles in on the snow bike last year, and was DETERMINED to finish.  It wasn't so cold (highs in the low-20's I think), so that wasn't an issue, the snow conditions were pretty good too.  Lance decided to run us on the full, difficult course.  I got ahead of most riders in the initial stretch of trail, a lot of people were inexperienced on snow and wallowed around.  Then on the first big climb my glasses fogged up completely, not sure I made time there or lost time.  Got a little lost on the outskirts of Debuque, but eventually found my way onto the course and down to the Heritage Trail.  I ate a few pieces of pizza at the turn-around point and headed back in, kind of got into a mindless zone.  I was tired and sore, but I kept pushing, and managed a 5th place finish in 7 hours and 14 minutes!

This year... really, I have no business doing this race.  My fitness was mediocre last year, this year its abysmal.  Since I'm still recovering from my the knee injury I am putting very few miles on the bike, and a snow bike race means constant, hard pedaling, and some hiking through snow for 8+ hours.  Honestly, I signed up because we didn't have any snow, and I thought I could do a nice fun event. On my monstercross bike on frozen (or even muddy) ground, 62 miles wouldn't be so hard at all. Then we got a nice snowstorm, 7 inches of very soft, cold powder in Debuque. Still, I feel I can use this as a gauge as to just how out of shape I am, see how far I get compared to years past.  New frame bag is made, saddle position is switched, food assmelbled, rusted chain removed and replaced... I'm as ready as I'm going to be.  Bring it.

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